Idea spawns partnership to help Rural Ministry

An idea to reduce waste and help a community organization recently blossomed into a much larger partnership.

SUNY Fredonia Enactus Club Green Wave member Nick Padulo approached United Way of Northern Chautauqua County Executive Director Deborah Tederous with the idea of collecting off-campus college students’ canned food before they leave for the summer.

He asked Tederous how the Food For Thought project could be expanded to include the community.

Tederous reached out to United Way board member Ed Hazen, who is also the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at Dunkirk City Schools.

“Deb approached me with the idea because of her connections at the college and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for our students to really become more invested in the community.

We also wanted to make people aware of everything the United Way does. When I first started at the United Way I didn’t realize how many organizations are supported by the United Way, that our kids right here at the middle school benefit from,” Hazen said.

Food For Thought took off from there.

Hazen got together with Middle School Principal Stephen O’Brien, Middle School Student council Advisor Dawn Hoth and Honor Society Advisor Carol Bleck to hold food collection competitions between the homerooms.

Padulo along with fellow Green Wave members Nikoleta Vujovic and Justin Cunningham, met with the middle school students to get them excited about collecting canned food for Chautauqua County Rural Ministry, a United Way community partner.

“It was nice to see they were so excited about it. We used to do food drives when I was in middle and high school and I never really felt like I was excited, so it was awesome to see how excited they were to work with us,” Vujovic said.

The excitement from interacting with the Enactus members and the incentive of a pizza party with them and high school Honor Society students pushed middle schoolers to collect 1,070 items of canned food in 10 days.

“It’s nice to know the students care about their community and it’s great to be able to educate the youth about what is going on in the environment and the fact that they do have such an impact on their community,” Vujovic added.

Hoth said she thought Food For Thought was a great idea and knew the middle school students would like to get involved.

“It was a really great experience for the kids. They were really excited and proud of what they did,” she said.

Padulo added, “I think from a community standpoint, that students want to get involved at an age this young is pretty impressive.”

According to CCRM Food Programs Coordinator Bridget Majka, the 938 pounds of food collected, was worth approximately $2,133.

“The program was wonderful and very helpful to us. They collected almost 1,000 pounds of food and we were able to utilize that right away in our pantry,” Majka said.

Food For Thought will hold another food collection competition at Dunkirk High School at the end of April. The food collection from off-campus SUNY Fredonia students will take place in May.

Padulo said one of the project’s goals was to connect several groups, including SUNY Fredonia, the surrounding community and United Way and CCRM in order to further expand on Green Wave’s goal of sustainability and to establish ongoing relationships.

He explained not many college students are aware of what is going on in the community, outside of campus, and Green Wave hopes by bringing Food For Thought to students, it will also raise awareness of the community and that there is an organization that will take food donations, instead of throwing away excess canned goods at the end of the semester.

“The SUNY Fredonia students have been great in supporting us and we look forward to continuing that relationship. We are very thankful because of the increased need for our services,” Majka said.

Padulo said this is the first Food For Thought event but Green Wave’s vision is to see the program continue in the future.

“As executive director, these types of partnerships and connections, that’s what it’s all about for me. If I can help bring this type of partnership between community, the Enactus students and our community partners together then I feel as if I have truly done my job,” Tederous said.

About Enactus

Enactus is a student-run entrepreneurial group at SUNY Fredonia, encompassing several branches. One of these branches is Green Wave, which focuses on sustainability, reducing waste and helping the environment through awareness and programs like Food For Thought and its Recyclink, ink cartridge recycling programs. The food For Though Project, and all those involved in it, allowed SUNY Fredonia Enactus to bring home two trophies and place within the top 60 out of over 200 colleges at the Enactus National Exposition in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the end of March. For more information on Enactus contact Sue McNamara, Ph.D., assistant professor of management and Enactus advisor at

About United Way of Northern Chautauqua County

Since the 1950s, United Way of Northern Chautauqua County has been partnering with local people and organizations to create opportunities for a better life for all Northern Chautauqua County residents. Every dollar raised by the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County stays in Chautauqua County meeting local needs and impacting more than 32,450 lives. For more information visit or call 366-5424.